Former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner was moved to tears after receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in front of her family at the ESPYS on Wednesday night (15Jul15).
The gold medal-winning decathlon star was given a standing ovation as she made her first big public appearance since announcing her transition from male to female in April (15).
Soccer star and recent World Cup champion Abby Wambach presented the special award, which is given to those who show "strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost".
A short film was shown featuring Jenner's heroic story as an Olympic sports icon who "made patriotism cool again in America", despite battling gender dysphoria for most of her life.
His model daughter Kendall Jenner was interviewed for the piece, and noted it broke her heart to see her father, who "never cries", break down after coming under the scrutiny of the media and critics over the past year, adding, "I can't imagine... to finally be free, that must be the greatest feeling in the world."
During her acceptance speech, Jenner urged people to educate themselves on trans issues, and called for more support of trans teens.
She said, "Trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect. And from that respect comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society, and a better world for all of us... We have come a long way, but we have a lot of work to do."
Towards the end of her speech, Jenner grew emotional as she acknowledged her family members, many of whom were in the audience to support her - including stepdaughters Khloe, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, and his biological children, Kylie, Kendall, Brody, Brandon, Burt and Casey, who all donned black attire as Jenner stood out in a stunning white gown.
With tears in her eyes, Jenner said, "I'd like to thank my family - the biggest fear I had coming out is that I never wanted to hurt anyone else, most of all my family and my kids. I always wanted my kids to be proud of their dad, what he's accomplished in his life. You guys have given me so much support. I am so so grateful to have all of you in my life. Thank you."
Jenner ended her passionate speech by hinting at the controversy surrounding her award - some critics believed she wasn't worthy for simply coming out as transgender, and there were other athletes who were more deserving of the prize.
She said, "If you wanna call me names, make jokes, question my intentions, go ahead. Because the reality is I can take it. But for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn't have to take it.
"So, for the people out there wondering what this is all about - whether it's about courage or or controversy or publicity, I'll tell you it's all about what happens from here. It's not just about one person. It's about thousands of people. It's not just about me. It's about all of us, accepting one another. We're all different. That's not a bad thing. That's a good thing. And while it may not be easy to get past things you may not understand, I wanna prove that it is absolutely possible - if we only do it together."
The prize, named after late tennis great Arthur Ashe, has previously been presented to the likes of boxing icon Muhammad Ali, late South African president and civil rights activist Nelson Mandela, and American footballer Michael Sam, who became the first openly-gay athlete to be drafted into the National Football League (NFL).